“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”.
My dear priests, deacons, brothers and sisters in the consecrated life and faithful laity of the Diocese of Quincy,
I want to greet you all with the words from the Book of Revelation, Chapter 1, verses 4 through 6 – Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth.
To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
During this Chrism Mass, where we will renew our commitment to Christ, I invite you to look at Him intently, as they did at the synagogue in Nazareth, because in Him is the secret of this celebration and of our life and ministry. See Him in the flesh, see Him pierced on his side hanging on a cross and see Him, coming with power to subject all things unto Himself.
This year, once again we gather with joy to celebrate Christ’s greatest gift given through His Church: His same anointing, the gift of the Spirit who acts in the Sacraments of grace. The Lord does it, taking what is created, oil, in order to convert it into a sign of life, of healing, of strength and of sanctifying power. With the oil we will anoint the baptized in order to strengthen them for the struggles in life and make them members of Christ; we will anoint the sick, to sustain them in their weakness and in some cases prepare them for death, assuring them that their anointed body will rise; we will anoint priests and bishops, to identify them with Christ, the Priest of the eternal covenant. The oil, which serves to nourish, heal and beautify man, becomes a sign of the presence of Christ who recreates and sanctifies us. Christ unites creation and redemption and gives us the fruit of the olive that He created so that our flesh may be brought to new life and our bones, now and after our death, will exult with His salvation.
As members of the Diocese of Quincy, we are One Body, united with each other and united to Christ as the Head, we have received the anointing that gives sense to everything we do, as Christians and as clergy. This celebration brings us back to the origin of our being as members of Christ and as His ministers. Here, in this Liturgy, I hope that we can recover the sense of our belonging to Christ and our ministry, the joy of our vocation, the power that makes us invincible in our struggles against evil. If life shakes us, if our strength fails, and if, on occasions, we lose the sense of our ministry, may this Eucharist have the strength to chase away our sadness and recover our illusions; to drive away disappointments and revive our passion for the Gospel, which constitutes our mission. Today we say: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me.” Let us the priests who undeservedly act in the name of Christ our Head and by the grace of God, can use with trembling and shaking the “I” of Christ as if it were our own. Let us say together: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”.
If anyone has any doubts about their ministry; if anyone thinks nothing can be done against the power of this world, then just go the Scripture, the fountain of life and grace and read what one of the most tender and consoling books, Revelation says in Chapter 1, verses 5-6: “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” Or repeat, from your own vital experiences, the words from Psalm 89, verses 21-23: “I have found My servant David; with My holy oil I have anointed him, with whom My hand shall be established; also My arm shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not outwit him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague those who hate him.” What else do we need in order to feel secure in our vocation? What will justify our joy?
Today, Christians, priests and deacons, we live in an enormous paradox, when we are invaded by discouragement or we allow ourselves to be dragged by insecurity as we face the difficult task of evangelism. On one hand, if we look around us, we find hurting mankind, a multitude of torn hearts, prisoners of their own anguish and passions, afflicted and sad, poor spiritually and materially. Mankind’s drama presents itself each day in our lives and we are disconcerted. We seem to lose our trust in mankind. We encounter oppressed, beaten and enslaved people, people who don’t lift their heads due to the moral, social and economic crises. There is a word that has unfortunately become common in our daily life: corruption. As if we were destined to live with it. Where is the paradox? In the fact that the Lord has put into our hands the ability to anoint the wounds of people, walk alongside them, lift them up from their prostration and lead them to joy. But, we lack faith. We think to ourselves that if we cannot fix the material problems that afflict people, we are not worth anything. We long for the gold and silver we don’t have, as Peter and John told the paralytic at the portico, and we neglect the grace of anointing we possess: the power of Jesus Christ. An anointing that comes from the head – Christ – and descends through the entire body, the Church until it reaches each individual. Yes, my brothers and sisters, God has anointed us in order to anoint; He gives us the power to heal, to restore, in the same way that the oil does with the cracks in the clay, and we are able to give life and sanctity. There is no place for discouragement in a Christian or a clergyman who lives his/her faith.
The Chrism Mass anticipates, in a certain way, the Passover. The entire celebration is permeated with the joy of salvation that comes from Christ. Everything speaks of life, the life of the Resurrected. It seems like the Church, before introducing us into the drama of the Passion, wants to assure us that God, who raised His Son by the power of the Spirit and made His humanity into a fountain of life, has the last word. From His glorious humanity has come forth the Anointing, which is the Spirit. It is only because of this, we can go through the sorrows and agonies of ministry, because everything culminates and is consummated in the triumph of Christ over history and in each individual.
The life and ministry of a priest is a gift, not only for the Church, but also for the world. In Communist countries where so many priests were massacred, Christians attended churches in ruins or cemeteries and they would put a stole over the grave of a priest or on the floor of the church and would recite the Eucharistic prayer. And, when they came to the words of institution, they would remain silent… missing the only one who could say those words in the first person: the priest. In that way, they would increase the “longing for the Eucharist” which they were unable to celebrate. The longing of salvation that the priest bears, even if he is a poor sinner. It is the consolation of Christ with which the Sacrament has invested us. The joy that changes ashes into crowns and mourning into a fragrance of celebration.
Why do we lose the joy of our vocation? Why do we give the impression of being beaten and discouraged? Because the anointing of Christ has to permeate our entire life. The physical anointing with the oil or chrism is not enough. That anointing prepares us and disposes us to live always in the unity of life, that makes us live our ministry with the radicalism of one who lives no longer for himself or herself, but for Christ and His Church. We need to pray, contemplate and convert to Christ in our roots. We need to recover each day our deepest being. Let us be pastors, let us be examples, let us be supportive, let us be friends with the ones who suffer, the ones who are searching, the ones who are spiritually hurt. Let us be the hand of God and the presence of God in the world that surrounds us. We will always run out of time in giving ourselves to others, in the same way that Christ ran out of time, or St. Paul, urged by the love of the churches or the great pastors who have preceded us. We need to believe in who we are, live it and witness it with passion.
As we receive today the oils, we manifest the unity of the Diocesan Church. From the center of this mother church in Quincy, we leave with the gift of Christ in order to take Him through all the corners of the Diocese. This is the unity of the mission whose origin is Christ. That is why I invite you to renew your priestly vows and the first love with which we first made them. Christ is faithful and we will not be lacking the grace of His fidelity. I invite you, above all, to live the unity of the presbyterate as a sign of the presence of the Only Priest who has called us and consecrated us to Himself. I am the first to give thanks to God for each and every one of you, for your history of salvation, for your struggles and your hopes, for the daily giving of yourselves in this church, called the Diocese of Quincy. Live with joy your ministry and may the oil of salvation that you will receive, help you to overcome the trials of daily living and increase your certainty that Christ has made you a participant of His victory. Let us anoint people with His mercy and let us allow ourselves to be anointed by Him.
In a few moments, we will renew our promises before the church of God gathered here, who are also the recipients of our mission. With our ministerial priesthood, we sustain the church that has been entrusted to us. And at the same time, the church sustains us with her prayers and her faithful company. Let us pray one for another, let us love each other from the heart and let us support each other with our affection and assistance. Let us avoid any destructive, ill-intentioned and divisive criticism. Let us pray that in our journey, serving the people of God, we may be the good fragrance of charity and mercy of the One who came not to be served but to serve and to give His life for the ransom of many. Amen.
The Rt. Rev. J. Alberto Morales, OSB